Whilst Rolex Capri Sailing Week has rapidly become a familiar feature on the early season Mediterranean sailing calendar, the weather ahead of the first day of racing on Wednesday is distinctly unfamiliar.
Overcast skies and rain have welcomed the crews readying themselves for the week ahead. Not that spirits have been dampened. Capri is one of those locations that rain or shine lifts the most darkened mood.
2008 marks the fourth edition of Rolex Capri Sailing Week and 39 yachts have gathered in the Marina Grande for this year's competition. Racing is spread over four days and will comprise a mixture of windward/leeward and coastal courses. The fleet represented is drawn from eleven nations and is divided into three main classes: Swan 45s (19 entries), Maxis (including the Swan Maxi Class) (eight entries) and the Comets (12 entries).
The Swan 45 is one of the strongest owner driver classes in yacht racing today and racing should be tight. Defending champion from the 2007 Rolex Capri Sailing Week, Carlo PERRONE and Atlantica Racing is under no illusions, "We are happy to be defending our title here in Capri. Last year the competition level was very high and this year it is even higher. The boats are more competitive, all the crew are more professional, so the level is very, very high. It's going to be difficult for us to do as well as last year but we will try our best."
PERRONE has been in the class for some four years now and enjoys the cut and thrust of one-design racing. The crew has remained largely the same over the years, including tactician Lorenzo BODINI. PERRONE is undeterred by the immediate weather and is looking forward to the days ahead, "I think one-design racing is the most amusing [sic] thing, because it is not the best boat that wins but it is the best crew that wins, so that puts on a lot of pressure. I think the satisfaction is a lot higher than when all the boats are different. We have not paid much attention to the weather yet. We know it should be getting a little better in the next days. We hope it does not continue to rain, because Capri with rain would be a bit sad!"
As with most of the competing Swan 45 fleet, this event is one of a series leading PERRONE and his crew to the holy grail of Swan racing, the biennial Rolex Swan Cup, the next edition of which will be held this September. The Swan 45s will also be racing for their Gold Cup at the same time and it only takes a brief look at the entry list to spot a heightened sense of competitiveness. DSK Comifin, winner of the Swan 45 division at the 2006 Rolex Swan Cup and the 2005 edition of this event is here, with Pietro D'ALI calling tactics for owner Danilo SALSI. Another Rolex Swan Cup division winner (2004 vintage), Vertigo, is present with owner driver Marco SALVI aided by Vasco VASCOTTO
. From northern Europe, the one-two-three from the 2005 Swan 45 European Championship have moved to the Med in preparation. Grant GORDON and Klaus DIEDERICHS have brought Fever, counting Andy HEMMINGS
and Steve HAYLES
in the crew. Glynn WILLIAMS
is here with Wisc and Belgian Bernard LAMBILLIOTTE has Andy GREEN
(GBR) on board Nemo.
The job of hosting this thoroughbred fleet falls to event organizers, the Yacht Club Capri. Established in 1999, the yacht club is quite young by comparison with some clubs around the sailing world whose roots may be traced back to the mid-1800s. This recent arrival on the scene has not prevented the club from making its mark in the sailing world. Its 120 members include some of the most famous national and international figures in the worlds of business, finance, entertainment and sport, such as Marco Tronchetti PROVERA (Pirelli), Luca Cordero DI MONTEZEMOLO (Fiat/Ferrari), Antonio D'AMATO, Aurelio DE LAURENTIIS (film producer) and Diego DELLA VALLE (JP Tod's). Rolex Capri Sailing Week is the club's flagship event and it has worked hard this year to look after the competitors. Social engagements for the week include a Caprese Gastronomic Tour - to be experienced to be believed - and the Rolex Party at the picture-perfect waterside restaurant of La Canzone del Mare, once a favoured haunt of the glitterati and which overlooks the famous Faraglioni rock formations.
For its part, the Maxi fleet in attendance includes one of the most famous supermaxis of the current era, Neville Crichton's 30.5 metre Alfa Romeo. The crew is the usual who's who of the upper echelons of the big boat world, with Grant SIMMER
(strategist), Jan DEKKER (bow), Curtis BLEWETT (sewer) and Neal MACDONALD (traveller) leading the cast. The Swan Maxi Class is well represented and will be scored separately as well as part of the main class. Two Swan 601s go head to head - Leonardo FERRAGAMO's Cuordileone versus the black carbon stealth fighter that is Sir Peter OGDEN's Spirit of Jethou. The largest Swan is the 24.86 metre Grey Goose; Roel PIEPER's Swan 80 Favonius is always well sailed as is the smaller, Flying Dragon of Giorgio MARSIAJ.
The third group of yachts in attendance is the Comar built, Comet fleet of cruiser/racers. Twelve boats have entered including the Rolex Capri Sailing Week 2007 champion, Maurizio BISCARDI and Libertine who, like PERRONE, is happy to be defending his title but recognizes the difficulty of doing so successfully, "It's always a pleasure to participate at the Rolex Capri Sailing Week, a prestigious regatta, held in a beautiful ambiance. The regatta series is even more interesting to last year, since the Comet class has become much more competitive."
As with the Swan 45s, for BISCARDI this event represents a step towards another prize - the IMS Worlds scheduled for late June in Athens, "We do not only want to defend the title we won last year here in Capri, but we are also here to test the boat following some important modifications ahead of the [IMS] Worlds".
Racing commences on Wednesday 21 May, at 12:00. Weather expert, Major Filippo PETRUCCI, a meteorologist of the Italian Airforce, predicts a difficult start to the series with the prospect of rain, thunder storms and occasional strong gusts in the southwesterly 13-19 knot winds, certainly until the early afternoon. As the day progresses, conditions will improve as the wind rotates to the west and decreases in strength. The longer range forecast suggests a return on Thursday to more normal high pressure and sunshine, but a consequential reduction in wind speed to 12-13 knots.
For more information about the Rolex Capri Sailing Week including entry lists and results visit www.yccapri.com